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No prison for Wisconsin attorney convicted of embezzlement

Crimes that involve the theft or mishandling of business' or individuals' money may not fall into the same category as more violent offenses such as homicide or robbery, but that doesn't mean people convicted of them don't face serious penalties. White collar crimes typically result in prison time, fines and restitution, which is a requirement to pay back some or all of the stolen funds.

Sentencing judges take several factors into account, including the defendant's criminal history, acceptance of responsibility and his or her ability to pay restitution. A recent case in Milwaukee County demonstrated the discretion that judges have in handing down sentences for white collar criminal convictions. A Bayside, Wisconsin, attorney convicted of embezzling almost $740,000 from clients of his law firm was able to avoid a prison sentence by demonstrating to the judge that he was willing and able to make restitution. He has already paid nearly $240,000 from his income and a personal loan.

The prosecuting attorney had pushed for two years behind bars, but instead the judge sentenced the man to five years' probation and one year in jail with work release privileges, which will allow him to continue earning a salary to pay further restitution. The judge also stayed a five-year prison sentence that the defendant will have to serve if he fails to adhere to his probation terms or commits another crime.

The attorney pleaded guilty in October after diverting payments from a law firm that had entrusted his own firm to handle insurance payments. The attorney took the payment checks, forged the endorsements and put the money into a personal account. He paid the firm about $238,000 after admitting to the theft, and his law license was revoked in 2010.

An unusual circumstance in this case is the fact that the convicted attorney is now working for one of his embezzlement victims, a financial company that offers health insurance to personal injury plaintiffs. He also has a second job with a sports management company. This employment will allow him to pay whatever final restitution amount is ordered in the case.

This case shows that with the help of an effective defense attorney, it is possible to avoid prison time for white collar crimes, provided a defendant can accept responsibility for the crime and demonstrate the ability to pay for his or her actions.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Lawyer who embezzled $737,000 avoids prison," Bruce Vielmetti, Jan. 7, 2013

  • Our firm handles cases similar to the one described in this post. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Milwaukee white collar crime defense page.

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